In 2012, the Dr. Iven Young Professor of Endocrinology, Ann Marie Schmidt, MD, and her team faced an inconceivable challenge—years of in-depth research had been destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Dr. Schmidt’s team had been investigating the cause of diabetes, a condition she calls a “head to toe disorder” because of its damaging effects on multiple organs and parts of the body. Years of meticulous work involving genetically modified mice were lost when 15 million gallons of water from the storm surge flooded the building containing the lab. “It was very, very traumatic,” says Dr. Schmidt in this Vital Signs episode. “All I could picture was just this massive destruction of everything we had built.”
Dr. Schmidt knew that rebuilding the lab would not be easy, but it was essential. By 2019, the Schmidt Lab had published an incredibly valuable study in Cell Reports that demonstrated a strong link between obesity and a protein it discovered, the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE). Further research revealed that removing RAGE from some obese and insulin-resistant mice could eliminate both obesity and diabetes. Dr. Schmidt is proud of her team’s accomplishments and grateful for their resilience. Despite a devastating situation, they learned that there is “always a way out, a way forward,” says Dr. Schmidt.
Today, the Schmidt Lab team continues to investigate how RAGE affects diabetes and obesity, and possibly severe COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Schmidt believes the work that was lost but then rebuilt over the past decade will lead to developing therapeutics with a life-changing effect on patients.